Saturday, April 30, 2011

Molaskey's Pub and the Passing of the Torch to Higher Ground Music

I had ported over to Molaskey’s Pub. The event this evening was to be the last hosted by the current owners, Apple MacKay and Katydid Something. The sale of the pub had been announced late last week. Earlier in the day on Tuesday the 26th of April, I’d received an event notice via Facebook about tonight.  Prior to my arrival here, I’d spoken to Katy and then immediately after to Dreams Riler of Higher Ground Music, the new owner of Molaskey’s. As I hadn’t had an opportunity to chat with Apple, on my arrival at the event I’d engaged him in a conversation.
 “Do you know the story behind Molaskey’s Pub itself ... why it got built in the first place?” Apple asked me.

I replied to his question, “Hmmm … I know it was named after Katy's grandfather.”
“Well that’s the name but not why the pub was built.” Apple said.
“Then I believe I’d not heard the full story.” I said in reply. While I waited for him to type out the story, I panned around with my camera controls and noted that things looked pretty much as I had remembered. I’d first been introduced to the Pub and it’s ambiance shortly after I’d interviewed Apple’s Second Life partner and real life spouse, Nasus Dumart. She is the author of the book, “The Unofficial Guide to Building Your Business in the Second Life Virtual World”. There was a large crowd gathered. Well large for Second Life, I counted thirty avatars there, dancing and listening to the first of several performers scheduled for the evening’s revelries. I said hello in chat to several friends and it wasn’t too long before my wait was over as Apple’s story came across in the open instant message window.
“I used to build on contract in the early days. I was approached to build an Irish pub for St Pat’s Day. It was fourteen days before the date and a huge build in a short time, so I priced it accordingly. You know the saying … you can have it … 1 Fast, 2 Cheap, 3 Good, but you can only pick two. Anyway, I was turned down but a friend scored the build, so I doubted he could do it and challenged myself to build it. Well, St Pat’s Day rolled around and I IM'd the guy who wanted me to build a pub, asked him for a TP to see his new pub and share a pint.  He didn’t have a pub, so I offered to TP him to my new pub.” He said.
I laughed and then replied, “Good for you.”
“He came by and was amazed … and offered twice the money to move it right then.  I declined and we opened that day, four years ago St Pat’s.” He said
“That’s a good story Apple.” I said.
With the story complete he turned his attention back to the festivities and his guests and I opened the announcement notecard I’d received from Katy. I’d left her a short message immediately after I read it. She agreed to meet with me and we met at her home in Second Life. Her home is next to the Pub.
“I have to tell you. I was surprised when I read the press release about the sale ... I’d always thought of Molaskey's as more than just a venue. Is that a fair characterization?” I asked.
“Yes, for quite a while it seemed almost real with a great group of core people and regulars ... but lives change. I think the economy woes stressed many people out. Gosh, we had great parties and lots of fun.  The other thing that happened is that as Molaskey's got bigger there was a desire to organize it a bit more. There were thoughts to incorporate ... and to become more of a leader in the community. There were ideas to build a social networking site for the music community.” She said in reply.
“I’d always enjoyed my visits here, with good company and good music. Based on the sale though it sounds like those plans hadn't materialized … the incorporation I mean.” I commented.
“No. I think the real issue is we knew what we wanted to do and even had a general game plan ... but never the time as both business partners had full time jobs and families and my mantra is Real life comes first.” She said.
“I can understand that mantra  ... so as the economic pressures and the time commitment to actualize the vision for Molaskey's became more of a constraint, the decision then was to sell it. What is actually transferring to the new owner?” I asked.
“The new owner, Dreams Riler of Higher Ground Music, is purchasing the Pub and associated builds, the group, and as much as can be transferred directly to her. She is purchasing the lands around the pub with the Beach being the first parcel. I divided up the parcels for sound management last year so the pub sits on one parcel, the ice rink/game patio on another with the beach yet another ... then there are parcels on the next sim which are adjacent to handle larger crowds. We had a vision to create a community with shopping and residences to support the music venue so I had accumulated a lot of surrounding lands. The new owner will see how much she wants to acquire of those in the coming month or so. If she decides not to take them I will sell them outright.” She replied.
“Molaskey's had become one of the ‘must see’ places in Second Life and there must be a host of great memories and performances. Is there any one that stands out the most for you?” I asked.
“Sighs … let’s see. I loved the music as it developed. We started with some of the top performers at the time back in July 2007. In August last year I applied for the destination guide, as I had in the past, one Saturday afternoon... and by Thursday our numbers had jumped substantially and Nasus, Apple's RL wife and SL partner said the place had a constant stream of Newbies. So we knew then we made the destination guide!” She replied and then after a pause continued; “But I think the most fun I actually had was at some of the parties. We had one based on a classical Roman theme which was probably attended by 150 of our closest friends by the time the night was through! It was on a separate parcel we named for the party and for even long after I sold the parcel it was still listed as the ‘ancient party grounds!’ That, I think, was my favorite event!”
“It sounds like it would have been a very good party. Besides being just a venue itself Molaskey's has been a leader in promoting live music and musicians. How would you characterize the legacy you and Apple leave behind?” I asked.
“I think what we did was establish the idea that there could be more than just a music venue. We all met at the Second Life Community Convention in  2008 in Tampa and as a welcome event we collaborated with Thynka Little and her real life Extension work (Department of Agriculture). We set up in the sports bar in the hotel where the convention was held and had Lyndon Heart play and Thynka and her group set out free appetizers and it was like a real life version of the pub.  But at that convention there was nothing for the music community … so for the next convention in San Francisco we created a music track as part of the event. From there I think everyone went away with a real sense of community … and then the real life jams took off... before then I knew of just two other regular jams ... DimiVan Ludwick had a jam in Indiana and there was a regular Seattle jam which Dakota Pluto organized.” She said and then added; “So I think our legacy was reaching out into the community and bring folks together … not that is wasn’t done before  … can't take credit for that … but getting a music track at SLCC and having the musicians love it and want to get together more often was a big thing.”
“It’s a nice thing to be remembered for i would think. You've been in second life for nearly 5 years now and I’m curious as to what's next for Katy?” I asked.
“Well, I guess I did the music track so well for two years I got recruited to help at the actual convention … organizing level and am now on the board of AvaCon, Inc. the people who produce the convention and I will continue to write for Music Matters Magazine as I have time. But I will also get to see my husband, who now has Sundays off and I haven’t' been able to spend the day with him due to SL responsibilities. I did almost 4 years of Sunday afternoons in SL … and he wanted to see me too!” She replied.
We chatted for a few minutes more, she was about to leave for dinner and I had another appointment. Dreams Riler of Higher Ground Music and the new owner of Molaskey’s had just logged in and she sent me a message to say she was available whenever I was ready. Katy logged out and I ported over to Higher Ground Music.
“I just finished meeting with Katydid something.” I said after I sat the virtual me on a sofa in her office.
“She is a sweetheart and she'll be missed. I just hope folks realize she'll still be around.” She said.
“They will when they read my article.” I commented
“Aww … good. Rather than have people think of this as the end of something I'd like for them to think of it as the continuing of something great. She started a tradition in SL and I mean to keep it going. As a matter of fact I just met with Maali Beck who said Molaskey's is an SL institution.” She said.
“I would have to agree with that. When Katy passed the notecard to me about the sale, I was quite surprised. With my interest piqued I decided to contact you and her, I wanted to know why.” I said and then continued with my first question. “But let’s start off with Higher Ground Music. It’s been around for how long?”
“Almost two years.” She replied.
“You're the founder?”
“I am.” She said.
“How was it that you found your way into Second Life and the music business?” I asked
“To be honest I was bored one day and searched for something to do online. I saw an ad for Second Life and signed up. Well a girl has to support her shopping habits … so I looked for a job in world. I found a hosting job with MNP and I fell in love with the live music shows ... I wanted to take it farther. I saw too much competition within this business. So I thought about it a bit and decided I wanted to rise above the competitiveness and find a way to help everyone. So Higher Ground Music was born. The concept was and is to bring together venues, musicians and hosts for the greater good of spreading music throughout SL. Music inspires folks  it uplifts people, encourages them and feeds the soul ... Everyone should be able to take part.” She paused briefly before she continued; “So without charging anyone for these services, in fact ... paying our hosts... we've all come together to give everyone a way to enjoy SL's music. We don't charge musicians to list with us at all; we even help DJ's find gigs … all for the love of the music. HGM is not in competition with any management companies or managers. We work with them … and it's caught on.”
“I got that from the purpose statement on the web site, and I think i understand the model. But how does becoming a venue owner yourself fit with that model?” I asked.
“Well it wasn't so much the venue itself that interested me. It was the sense of family and belonging. Molaskey's is much loved by many and Katy touched me with her story about how it was named after her grandfather. It's the sort of place I want HGM to be associated with. HGM has its own venue as well. It's not the structure ... it's what it stands for that I love. I envision a circle of friends, musicians, fans, hosts, etc. In fact there's a show there in 10 minutes … that has been one of the attributes about Molaskey's … it’s bigger than just a venue. If Second Life was a walking human being then I believe Molaskey's would be its heart.” She replied
“That’s a nice sentiment.” I commented.
“It's my job to see to it that the blood keeps pumping” She said.
“Will you be directly involved in running it after the transfer?” I asked.
“Oh yes! I will be totally hands on. There has been some concern about things changing. I would like to put those concerns to rest. I believe in Katy's dream and I intend to work closely with her to keep it going while moving HGM and my trained staff alongside. Managers have come to me, musicians too … Those who love Molaskey's and wish to remain playing or working there ... it's a family and you don't turn your back on family.” She said in reply.
“Do you see any other acquisitions in the near future for Higher Ground?” I asked
“I see growth as a wonderful thing. We must never stop growing. I have a passion for the music industry in Second Life and will do whatever it takes to keep spreading it around. For the time being we'll concentrate on Molaskey's.” She said in reply and she finished off the statement with a smile.
“Are you planning to attend tonight’s festivities there?” I asked.
“I am. Soon as we are done here I am headed over there. I'd love to invite you to come along.” She responded.
“One last question, is Higher Ground involved in any other virtual world?”
“No they are not. We are strictly in Second Life.”
“Any plans to expand beyond Second Life?”
“Hmmmmm … I am pretty loyal to SL so probably not.”
With that last question asked and answered and the event at the pub already underway, I ported over to join in on the fun. I’d attempted to contact apple MacKay prior to this evening without any luck and was pleased to see him there when I arrived. I’d asked him in an instant message if he cared to make a statement, but before he replied I received one from Nasus.
“Nasus Dumart is teary-eyed.”
“Aww … I bet, you guys have built something very special here.” I replied.
“It's like sending a child off to college … teary- but proud.” She said.
“I am proud of what we built here and I'm glad it is going to live on. I wasn’t always in SL but I connected the dots so to speak and got Molaskey's out of SL if you know what I mean … when I wasn’t in SL … all the branding/ social networks etc. It was an amazing learning experience/ experiment in my opinion … one that succeeded past all of our wildest dreams. Four years!” He said in reply and then added. “I'm very proud of what we built here … I feel like a proud parent sending their child off to college or into the real world.”
“Nasus had just expressed a similar sentiment.” I commented.
“It’s like the old line ... if you love something ... set it free. We need to set it free to hopefully have it grow even bigger … oh and I don’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon.” He said.
“I was about to ask what's next for you?”
“I’m not leaving SL or anything. People have been asking me that a lot lately.  What’s next is a much needed break, at least for a little while.” He said and after a short pause he added; “All I can say is that this has been one of the most rewarding undertakings I have ever been involved with.”

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